Am I Divorced?

The question is all too frequent. Am I still married? How can I find out if my spouse divorced me?

If you and your spouse have been separated for a long time, the simple answer is that there is no easy way to confirm whether your spouse ever divorced you. You can check easily enough, of course, in the court for the area where you live. But what about the area where your spouse lives? And if you have lost touch with your spouse, how can you know where he or she has lived?

Unfortunately, the solution is to err on the side of safety. If you’re not sure that you and your spouse are still married, and it’s important to you to be single (for example, if you want to remarry), you have no choice but to get a divorce, even if you learn later that it was redundant.

Getting a divorce when you can’t locate your spouse takes a little extra time, but shouldn’t be inordinately expensive. You will typically follow this sequence:

  • You will file for divorce and persuade the court that you cannot after reasonable diligence locate your spouse. The court will then permit you to serve your spouse by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the area where you live.
  • You will publish a notice in that newspaper (typically for four consecutive weeks), providing pertinent information that your spouse could use to respond to your divorce complaint if he or she read it — and of course, there’s a REALLY SLIM chance your spouse will read it.
  • After the notice runs for four consecutive weeks, you are deemed to have accomplished service of process on your spouse. Now you must wait ANOTHER 30 days. At the end of that 30 days, you will file an application for default on the basis of your spouse’s failure to respond.
  • The court will set a hearing. At that hearing, you will provide testimony that confirms the court’s jurisdiction as well as the grounds for divorce. Then the court will likely sign a Final Judgment of Divorce.
  • There are some things you can do and some things you cannot do when you obtain your divorce by publication. You can get custody of a child, for example, and you obtain custody of property. Typically, however, you cannot get an award of child support until you actually get personal service on your spouse. Most courts are also reluctant to transfer property of a spouse unless and until that spouse has been served personally.

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